Classic belongs in Detroit, not Ann Arbor

BY foxsports • January 12, 2012

Bigger isn't always better.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has acknowledged that the NHL has contacted the school about hosting the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.

Doesn't that sound amazing?

Picture it -- 110,000 hockey fans jammed into the Big House to see the Red Wings take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup.

It would be an incredible scene and would set all kinds of attendance records. It would also be a huge money-making event for the league, the Red Wings and NBC.

I strongly hope it never happens.

Should the NHL bring the 2013 Winter Classic to Detroit?

Definitely.

But that's the thing. They should bring it to DETROIT. Put the game in the center of Hockeytown where it belongs, at Comerica Park.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Big House. My mom is a Michigan grad, and football at Stadium and Main has been a part of my family's history for more than 40 years.

My dad was there when Bo stunned Woody's top-ranked Buckeyes in 1969, and I was in the stands when Michigan beat Indiana 55-7 on Oct. 25, 1975.

(For those of you who aren't obsessive about Big House trivia, that particular Homecoming game drew 93,857 fans -- the last five-digit attendance in stadium history.)

I'm in my third decade covering the Wolverines as a sportswriter, and there's still something special about seeing the sea of humanity that fills the bowl on fall Saturdays. When the place is full, it's the sixth biggest city in the state, ahead of Flint and Dearborn.

It's a wonderful place. It has incredible tradition.

None of it has to do with the Detroit Red Wings.

The hockey game that belongs at the Big House is the game that was played there -- Michigan vs. Michigan State in the Big Chill matchup of December 2010. That's a game with meaning in Ann Arbor.

The Wings and Maple Leafs would just be a gimmick.

In Detroit, though, the Winter Classic would do what the event is supposed to do -- celebrate the heritage of hockey in one of the cities that built the NHL.

Comerica is still a young stadium, but how many places in this area do a better job of showing off Detroit's past, present and future?

Sports history?

How about Jimmy Howard making saves on the same spot where Jose Valverde got his, or robbing an opposing scorer at the place where Neifi Perez kept Justin Verlander's first no-hitter alive, or where Austin Jackson has run down so many fly balls?

After a goal, and maybe a victory, the Red Wings would celebrate at the same place where the Tigers mobbed each other after beating New York and Oakland in 2006 and after so many important victories in 2011's run to the ALCS.

It wouldn't just be recent Tigers history, either. Nick Lidstrom would play under the statue of Ty Cobb -- more than a century after The Georgia Peach started his Detroit career in 1905.

And somewhere, Sparky Anderson would be explaining how to fix hockey to anyone that listened.

I was in his Tiger Stadium office 20 years ago when he told us, at great length, that clearing the puck past the blue line to kill a penalty should be illegal. If you did it, according to Sparky, the team on the power play should get a free shot.

(Of course, Sparky hadn't been to a hockey game since he played minor-league ball in Toronto in the 1950s, but it was a compelling argument. Except for the free shot. Even he didn't know how that would work. "They could put the puck 10 feet out and let someone shoot, but that might kill a goalie.")

Besides all of the Tigers tie-ins -- and don't forget that the teams share an owner -- and the proximity of Ford Field, Comerica Park represents the city itself.

One of Henry Ford's first homes was located in what is now center field, and the stadium is just a mile from the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects, where Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and so many other Motown stars grew up.

Another block down are the ruins of the Brewster Recreation Center, the gym where Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson learned to fight.

And, of course, there's the view.

At Michigan Stadium, the NBC cameras would pick up all of the people in the stands, but at Comerica, there would be so much more to see.

You'd have the Renaissance Center and the Detroit Athletic Club dominating the skyline over the center-field fountain, the giant scoreboard in left and the Broderick Tower whales in right.

There are millions of reasons to have the game at Michigan Stadium, but they all have dollar signs in front of them.

Gary Bettman and the NHL need to do the right thing for hockey's heritage and the city of Detroit.

Bring the 2013 Winter Classic to Comerica Park.


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